Monday, April 26, 2010

Cookbook Review--"Steak with Friends: At Home with Rick Tramonto"--Prepare to Drool!

There are some books that I receive to review that immediately excite me, and others for whatever reason, I am not as jazzed about and need to warm up to. "Steak with Friends: At Home with Rick Tramanto" by Rick Tramanto with Mary Goodbody, fell into that second category. It's not that I don't like steak, I do, but I don't eat that much of it as I try to eat on the lighter side, and I am not a griller by any means. Steak and steak house food while appealing, didn't seem like something I was going to enjoy cooking. Turns out I was wrong, and although I had to add a few extra exercise sessions into my week, I ate very well and thoroughly enjoyed what I made.

If you are not familiar with Rick Tramonto, he is an award winning chef who has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years and is the executive chef and partner in the Chicago-area restaurants Tru, Tramanto's Steak & Seafood and RT Sushi Bar and Lounge. He has judged on Top Chef, battled (along with Chef Gale Gand) Iron Chef Mario Batali with fennel in Kitchen Stadium, and will be a contestant this season on Top Chef Masters. "Steak with Friends" is his seventh book and takes the reader into his home, sharing good food with family and friends.

I was pleased to see the variety of recipes contained in the book (150 total), as in addition to the steaks, there are other meats, poultry, seafood, plenty of side dishes and sauces, drinks and desserts. There are personal stories and Rick's tips for cooking and serving steak and other food. The photos of the food are gorgeous and drool-worthy, making the book a treat to read. So for all my ho-humming about the book, once I started reading it I was impressed, and once I started cooking and eating the six recipes I selected to "road test" (actually with the many sauces and dressings involved it became ten recipes teasted), I was hooked.

Appetizers or pupus are some of my favorite things to make for gatherings or sometimes just for a light dinner. I love lettuce wraps in general, and the Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, served with Spicy Mayonnaise were delicious and packed quite a kick. In this recipe the shrimp are sprinkled with spicy-hot Japanese togarashi powder, grilled, then served with red pepper, cucumber and daikon strips in lettuce leaves.

The Spicy Mayonnaise (also used in the Spicy Tuna Rolls in the book) combines mayo with more togarashi powder, Sriracha chili sauce, dried red chili flakes and chili sesame oil. (Note: Taste as you make this sauce to get the mouth-burn level you are looking for as it is going on the already spicy shrimp). The wraps were fresh tasting and full of spicy flavor and the spicy mayo sauce is pretty addicting. A easy to throw together recipe that is a keeper for sure

I felt very elegant eating the Lyonnaise Salad--a blend of frisee and endive mixed with bacon, Gruyere cheese, haricots verts, tarragon and parsley in a Sherry Vinaigrette (sherry-vinegar, orange juice and shallots), and topped with a poached egg.

With this salad and a glass of white wine, I felt like I should be sitting in a French bistro. Tramanto also serves it with Garlic Croutons but being a crouton "disliker"--I skipped making them and served mine with some soft olive bread to soak up the runny egg yolk.

Bacon, cheese, and runny egg over slightly bitter greens--could a salad be better? Tramonto says it is a great way to start a steak meal but I found it to be a perfect meal on it's own.

Being a fish lover, I wanted to try one of the book's fish recipes and I picked one where I could use some local fish, the Grilled Mediterranean-Style Mahimahi with Olives and Shaved Fennel. The mahimahi is marinated in Tramanto's House Dressing (a blend of vinegars, mustard, garlic, basil and oregano), then grilled and served over a tasty salad of shaved fennel, fennel fronds, olives, red onion, basil, cilantro, lemon juice and lemon zest.

This was a great pairing of flavors and ingredients and I loved the fennel salad which would pair nicely with any grilled fish for a lighter healthy dinner.

Of course as the title of the book includes steak, I had to make one. I don't go to steak houses very often, but when I do I always order the petite Filet Mignon and indulge in a side of creamed spinach. Tramanto's filet is grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper and he recommends serving it with a Bearnaise Sauce (or a Red Wine Sauce). I went for the Bearnaise (my first time making it), a rich and tangy blend of taragon vinegar, shallots, egg yolks, butter lemon juice and fresh tarragon leaves.

Although my grass-fed steak was most excellent on its own, topping it with the Bearnaise sauce made it even more incredible.

Most creamed spinach recipes are cheesy and heavy but Rick's Steakhouse Creamed Spinach is somewhat lighter and made with baby spinach, shallots and clotted cream or creme fraiche and seasoned with nutmeg and a bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It was delicious, both with the steak and with eggs the next day for breakfast. I can't tell you how happy this dinner made me--well worth an extra workout. ;-)

Finally, dessert! Once I saw it, I knew I had to make the Killer Chocolate Pudding--a mix of bittersweet and milk chocolate and cream, topped with whipped cream and grated white chocolate and a sprinkling of artisanal salt.

Rather than topping it with the white chocolate shavings, I used some fun little curls of dark and white chocolate and used some Hawaiian black lava salt for the topping. Perfect--smooth, chocolaty and the sprinkle of salt gave it an almost caramel essence. Definitely killer! Well worth two extra workouts! ;-)

"Steak with Friends" is full of mouth-watering, indulgent food that is homey but also has an elegant edge. The recipes I tried were all relatively easy to make and really delicious--exactly the kind of food you want to share with your family and friends. It is "guy friendly" but varied enough to appeal not just to men, and it is the type of book any grill master or home chef would love.

For another foodie perspective and a peek at even more of the fabulous recipes in this book, check out my pal Natashya's review of "Steak with Friends" at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies (here).


  1. You really cooked it up Deb:D Everything looks so good. Your bearnaise sauce looks excellent and I am totally craving that steak! You and Natashya really have me curious about this book. Looks like some super tasty recipes.

  2. Debin, everything looks so yummie, and steak is totally my favorite food :-)

  3. Wow! What a wonderful review! You have completely sold me on this book.

  4. I love that you and Natashya didn't do the same recipes - more food porn for me to look at! That steak looks amazing as does the killer mousse. Sometimes you just really want comfort food I guess!

  5. Your photos, as usual, make the dishes really look so delicious. I think I would have been exactly the same about this book had I not seen your photos - I am not much of a steak eater either. However, now I will stop and flip through this cookbook next time I stop in at my local store and check it out. I'd love to try that salad and the pudding.

  6. I'll be looking for this in our library and taking time to page through it. You've made it sound like a most excellent "read". I love all the dishes you chose to highlight. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  7. Wow! This is an impressive line of dishes! I'm totally intrigued with the spicy shrimp lettuce wraps, and the Lyonnaise salad, these recipes look so fancy!

  8. wonderful book .. i really admire your work .


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